Update from Seminarian Jen Moore

Greetings, friends and supporters!
I am long overdue for an update on my life and progress towards ordination, so settle in: this is going to be a long one!
I finished internship at the end of July. I am following the “traditional” path, which means that internship takes place between the 2nd and 3rd year of academic coursework at seminary. In order to be at home in North Carolina for internship, I split my time between two churches: Abiding Savior Lutheran in Durham, and Holy Trinity Lutheran in Raleigh. These two churches are very different in many respects – one is a small congregation made up of folks primarily of African descent, while the other is a larger congregation with an active campus ministry and made up of folks primarily of Northern-European descent. As it happened, both churches ended up with interim pastors during my internship, so quite by accident, I have become familiar with the particularities of interim ministry. I promise I did *not* drive the pastors away … I think. 😉
Being at these two sites opened a lot of doors that might otherwise have been closed. Through several leaders from Abiding Savior, I was invited to join the NC Synod’s anti-racism facilitation team, and co-facilitated an all-day workshop on white privilege for about 60 rostered leaders. After the senior pastor left the church in Raleigh, I was able to take on primary responsibility for the confirmation program, which turned out to be great fun! I have been able to participate in ecumenical and interfaith gatherings in not one, but TWO cities over this past year, and have learned so much from a wide range of colleagues in public ministry. It really was a great year.
Holy Trinity extended an offer of regular employment to me for my last year of seminary. So, while I’m taking my classes at United Lutheran Seminary both online and through week-long intensives, I am heading up the Faith Formation program at Holy Trinity. A group of women in the church are ready and raring to tackle systemic racism in the church and asking me for help. I am so excited to work with them to develop a program of education and action under the umbrella of Faith Formation. Additionally, by virtue of what’s available online, this semester’s classes all revolve around our theological and scientific understandings of our relationship to Creation. Meanwhile, a large percentage of the congregation are scientists and faculty in a range of science departments at NC State. Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit is just showing off. Honestly! I expect this to be a fruitful year of integrating everything I’m learning and my passion for racial justice into practical ministry.
The best part about this academic year is being at home to share it with my husband, Noah. Noah will be auditing my next intensive, “Science and Scripture,” so we have both been wading through the book assigned for the class. I did not fully appreciate how much we were missing out on together until this semester. I am so grateful that, through the job at Holy Trinity and through scholarship support, we are able to stay in North Carolina, not worry about the added travel expenses for intensives, and enjoy this rare opportunity to learn together.
Mack and Professor Snugglepuss are doing just fine. Snugglepuss gave us a bit of a scare last winter when he stopped grooming and lost a bunch of weight. The vet confirmed: it’s hyper-thyroidism, a fairly common ailment in older cats. We were forced to give him a rather unfortunate-looking lion cut after his lack of grooming led to matted fur. Snugglepuss has gotten over the embarrassment of that, is now taking medication and feasting like royalty on expensive prescription cat food every day, and is back to a healthy weight. In related news, I joined a Facebook group for clergy with cats, which is amazing and life-giving.
All in all, life is good – just busy. Please keep us in your prayers as we head into the last step of the Candidacy process, which involves interviews with seminary faculty and members of the candidacy committee in the Metro DC Synod. By February or March, we will already be waiting to find out to which region and synod I am being assigned. As it does, time is hurtling us right along towards an ambiguous future. Thank you all for your support on this wild ride!
Peace,
Jen Moore

What To Say To The Dying

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My friend and mentor John Ellsworth Winter spent much of his life talking and teaching about death and dying. It takes a special teacher who can engage undergrads with a philosophy course entitled Thanatopsis: A Consideration of Death.

After his own death in January, John left behind scraps of paper, index cards, notes in the margins of books he read, and more. Many of these scribbles contain his thoughts and feelings about death.

I came upon this reflection he wrote at the end of his book Glorious Tragedy. Here, John shares his thoughts about what to say to those who are dying:

Rather than ask the condition of dying persons we would do better to greet them with a particular non-confrontive Polynesian greeting shared when meeting someone: “THERE YOU ARE!”

The greeting, so different from “Hello,” “Hi,” or “How are you?” is a healing poultice beholding the excellency of anyone, including a dying person. Immediately the greeted one has standing. Excitement accompanies the recognition of “THERE YOU ARE!” The phrase is invitation for them to engage in conversation.

THERE YOU ARE is an avowal to dying persons that they still are worthy of being spoken to, thought of, accepted as human though dying, as still viable beings who talk and listen.

THERE YOU ARE is an earthly form of a mystery solved, a problem overcome, an obstacle surmounted, a lost pearl of great price found, a journey soon to be taken and now being prepared for.

Those three words tell addressees they are important, alive, and ready for the future whatever it may be.

Those three words grant status to the addressees. They say, “Talk with me. Tell me.”

THERE YOU ARE!

John’s words remind me that all of us desire to be heard. And those who are dying often have the most worthwhile things to say.

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you…”  John 1:48

In Christ,

Jeanette

 

Far From The Shallow Now

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Even if your favorite picture didn’t win an Oscar this year, it was hard not to shed a tear watching Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sing “Shallow.” Watch it here

I confess that before that night I had not really paid attention much to the poetry of the lyrics. The song begins as Cooper asks,

Tell me somethin’, girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?

He admits, “I’m falling….and in the bad times I fear myself.”

Gaga responds with a similar sentiment,

Tell me something, boy
Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore?

She echoes his words, “I’m falling…and in the bad times I fear myself.”

But then Gaga belts out the emotional climax of the song:

I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now

As I’ve thought about the song, I’ve thought of all the times in the midst of  “bad times,” I’ve chosen to stay shallow. I’ve filled the void with the superficial. I’ve dwelt in anxiety or fear.

This week I’m inspired by Lady Gaga’s call to go off the deep end. Let them watch as we dive in!

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear…” 2 Timothy 1:7

In Christ,

Jeanette

 

 

This is not a meme

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Memes get the most attention on social media. But some thoughts just can’t be put into a meme. They are too painful. Too deep to whittle down to a few characters. Too important to try to be clever with a few words.

I am grieving today.

Before I write any more… to you who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersexual, queer, questioning, asexual or allies: You are loved by God just as you are. 

Full stop.

I grieve for the church. I grieve for the church which has once again failed you. I grieve for the church which has chosen not to follow the example of Jesus. I grieve for the church which has once again hurt children of God.

I grieve that I did not expect it. I grieve that I did not educate myself enough before this vote. I grieve that I did not reach out to my United Methodist colleagues and friends. I grieve that I remained in my own bubble.

Yesterday our siblings in Christ, the United Methodist Church (UMC), at a Special General Conference narrowly voted for a policy which prohibits same sex marriage, prohibits clergy in same sex relationships, and strengthens sanctions against individuals and congregations which go against these policies. *

This vote wounds more than United Methodists. It wounds the church as a whole. It wounds our collective witness to a God of love.

Far more important than the wounds to the church as a whole though, are the wounds to individuals. People who have been on the margins; people who have been told that somehow they are less than others in God’s eyes; people who had to listen to testimonies on a debate floor declaring that they are not what God intended; people who have sometimes dared to step forth inside a church and once again see the door slammed shut.

So today I grieve. I am listening to those who have been hurt.

I believe in a God of resurrection. I believe in a God of new creation. But today it is still Good Friday.

In Christ,
Pastor Jen

*The United Methodist Church is a global church and about 1/3 of its members are from African and Asian countries many of which have laws banning homosexual activity. Speakers at the conference from these countries tended to be the most vocal proponents of the approved policy. There are constitutional issues to the approved policy as well, so it is unlikely to be implemented exactly as voted.

Memories on World AIDS Day

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When I was in medical training, much of my practice centered around the research and treatment… and pain and fear and devastation of those with HIV/AIDS.

I recall one evening as I was wandering the halls of the medical floor wondering if people outside of the hospital setting really knew what was happening. More than half of my patients had been admitted due to some medical complication of HIV/AIDS: pneumonia, vomiting/dehydration, delirium, or AIDS wasting disease. Very often the first time someone learned they had HIV/AIDS was at the time of their hospital admission and I as a young doctor of 28 or 29 years old was telling a young man my own age that he had a disease for which there was no cure.

It was only slightly different on the pediatric wards. There weren’t the numbers of children with HIV/AIDS there, but we would admit the same children over and over again due to various complications of their illness. We got to know them. We became attached to them. And then they died.

In the developed world,  HIV/AIDS is a different illness twenty-five years later. Whereas life expectancy after diagnosis was 1 or 2 years back when I was in training, now the CDC says that those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and treated can expect to live nearly as long as those without HIV.

HIV/AIDS is a chronic illness which can be managed much like diabetes. We have effective ways to prevent it in children whose mothers are infected. And what’s most amazing to me is that when I speak with hospital residents these days, very little of their inpatient experience is related to the care and treatment of those with HIV/AIDS. It is largely an outpatient disease.

Today I am giving thanks for medical advances. I am giving money to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. And I am remembering G, a delightful 5 year old girl who could laugh and sing and pout and cry and loved Coca Cola and who died in 1997 due to complications of AIDS.

Jeanette

Pumpkin or Pecan?

What is your favorite movie?

Favorite college football team?

How about your favorite kind of pie?

At this time of year sometimes we worry about the different opinions that will be around the dinner table over the holidays.

We could try to stifle all opinions. Avoid conflict. No talk about politics or religion or movies or football.

I think that would be a shame, though.

Respectful conversation with people whose opinions are different from our own is an important life skill. It can be a spiritual practice.

And sometimes, different opinions means there is both pumpkin and pecan pie for dessert.

Jeanette

It’s Snowing

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My dog Carly loves snow.

She doesn’t worry about shoveling. She doesn’t worry about driving. She doesn’t worry about changed schedules and plans.

Before we worry about all those things, let’s just take a moment to enjoy the snow.

It’s here!

Jeanette

 

When Google Doesn’t Have The Answers

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The other day I was talking with some folks about the glories of Google.

With Google there is instant gratification to answer any question that may pop into my head:

  • How many widows were there after World War I?
  • How do you make turkey the day before Thanksgiving?
  • Is the movie “Overlord” scary?

Or almost any question. There are some questions that Google cannot answer:

  • How do some people who have lost everything still have hope?
  • Where do feelings of love and compassion for people we’ve never met come from?
  • Why would anyone give away their time for the sake of others?

For the questions which don’t make sense, which go beyond the rational, which go beyond Google, we have faith.

Jeanette

Stories Amid The Stones

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All four of my grandparents are buried in Forest Dale Cemetery in Malden, MA. Although both of my grandfathers served in World War I, my paternal grandfather’s stone is in a section of the cemetery reserved for that war’s veterans.

Nearly 2000 men and women from Malden served in uniform during World War I and nearly 80 of them died.

As far as I know, neither of my grandfathers talked about the war. They came home and went about their lives. My maternal grandfather became a pastor. My paternal grandfather worked on the railroad until he died as a result of alcoholism at the age of 43.

This weekend I am wondering about these stories I don’t know. I’m wondering about the stories that are buried in Forest Dale Cemetery. Especially the ones that are buried in Section 13, Lot 2.

This weekend I am giving thanks for veterans and their families. And I am praying for peace.

Jeanette

 

“Alexa, What Is 4 Plus 6?”

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A friend’s six year old son recently learned that “Alexa” can cut down on his homework time. At first it was funny….not so much any more.

Technology can sometimes hinder learning.

However, technology can also expand learning in extraordinary ways. It can open our eyes and ears to people, places, and voices we might never encounter on our own.

I was reminded of that this morning when I turned on my laptop to “Google” the question I had in mind.

There on the Google home page – the ‘Google Doodle’ was a video about Amanda Crowe, an Eastern Band Cherokee woodworker. Crowe was so gifted that she began selling her work when she was only 8 years old.

Giving thanks for Amanda Crowe today.

Jeanette